Patrick Kane always sets goals for, well, goals.
The Blackhawks right wing usually has some numbers in mind for what he’d like to do entering a season. Coming into 2013-14, however, he’s changing that slightly. Yes, he still plans to collect as many points as possible, and he’s off to an excellent start (as usual) with three goals in as many games and four total points. But as far as numbers, he’s not going to try and predict.
“I don’t want to put a number on things. I think it only limits yourself to what you can get to,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “I play better and produce more when I’m not worried about scoring points, but (instead) worried about playing a good game. If I go out there and worry about the things I have to do to play well, then those things come.”
Obviously it’s working. Kane’s been his usual noticeable self in all three of the Blackhawks’ games, opportunistic whether it’s 5-on-5 or on the power play and capitalizing on his chances. Kane’s always a fast starter, and this season is no exception. But improving his complete game is his main focus right now. The points, well they usually follow.
“If you worry about scoring goals or producing on the power play, that can go against you,” he said. “If you’re worried about doing the right things and playing well, hopefully those numbers will be there for you at the end of the day.”
Nikolai Khabibulin will get his first start of the season Friday night against the New York Islanders. It’s been a bit of a wait for Khabibulin, mainly because the early schedule has been so spread out. Now, he’s counting down to tomorrow.
“I’ve got 24 hours. Or a little more,” he said to laughs on Thursday. “Obviously any athlete wants to play games, and I’m no exception. I want to be out there contributing, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’m pretty excited about it.”
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With the back-to-back this weekend, the Blackhawks’ first of 18 such sets this season, it’s a perfect time to give the 40-year-old his first game.
“We’re happy to get him playing here,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s going to be an important part of our team.”
The Blackhawks made some tweaks to the third and fourth lines on Thursday. Marcus Kruger centered the third line with Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw, and Joakim Nordstrom centered the fourth between Brandon Bollig and Ben Smith.
“We tried a few of those in shifts (on Thursday night vs. St. Louis), putting Krugs in with those guys,” Quenneville said. “It’s just an option we have going forward. We wanted to see it in practice.”
So will Kruger center that line tomorrow vs. the Islanders?
“I don’t know about that spot, but he could play on that line,” Quenneville said.